Over the years we’ve been keen to champion Welsh food and drinks makers wherever possible. The country is stuffed full with the kind of artisan producers we like – crafting top quality goods in the traditional way without succumbing to modern marketing gimmicks to help get them noticed. Being fairly close to the Severn Bridge we are regular visitors to Wales and always leave well satisfied with the standard of booze and food we have been served.
Being a small nation, those producers are often keen to collaborate, as is the case with a selection of food and drink hampers promoted by the Food & Drink Wales Fine Food Cluster. We were initially asked if we would like to review a hamper or two for our Christmas Gift Guide but, such was the quality of goods we were sent, that we’ve decided the scheme deserves an expanded write up all of its own.
Hampers promoted under the fine food cluster include the ultimate Christmas box with turkey, lamb, sausages, Christmas pudding, booze and more from Rhug Estate; a family feast of meats, preserves, cheeses and desserts from Black Mountains Smokery; and some very tempting organic goodies from farmer’s co-op Calon Wen.
The hampers we received were picked out to perfectly suit our digging and swigging ways: a beer and snacks box from Monty’s Brewery, a selection of cheese, biscuits and wine from Celtic Country Wines and a deluxe hamper from Aber Falls Whisky Distillery.
Monty’s Brewery Beer and Snacks Hamper
Monty’s Brewery gets its name from the town of Montgomery, just a mile from the English border. Producing beers on what might be described as traditional lines, we tend comes across and enjoy at least a couple of their pints each year.
This hamper contains nine different 500ml bottles and a tenth – a potent barley wine at 8% – in a 330ml bottle. Among our familiar favourites is Old Jailhouse, an amber bitter with plenty of malt flavours and some fruit and bitter notes provided by classic British hops Goldings and Fuggles. It’s just 3.9% and is the kind of beer you dig out your best dimpled mug for, allowing you to take in big, deep, satisfying mouthfuls.
Dark Secret is a more of a slow sipper – a rich chocolatey stout that’s loaded with flavour and a heady 5.6% alcohol, and rare in the stout world for being gluten free. There are also two specially brewed seasonal offerings that Monty has jammed into the box: Ding Dong, 4.4%, a dry golden ale designed to go well with a Christmas feast; and Figgy Pud, 5.5%, which has been brewed with orange, spices and maple syrup for festive sipping.
And if, like us, the thought of all those beers makes you think ‘snacks’, then the box contains plenty of packets of crisps, popcorn and biltong too.
Price £35. Available from www.montysbrewery.co.uk
Celtic Country Wines Mulled Wine & Cheese Christmas Hamper Box
Celtic Country Wines is a family business that also goes under the name Celteg. Their speciality is wines and liqueurs made from ingredients other than grapes, which is also something of a specialty of ours. The hamper features a 500ml bottle of Elderberry Wine which you can mull with a sensationally fragrant bag of spices (provided) and the same volume of water for a lightly boozy, aromatic warming treat.
Elderberries make one of the finest red wines around (we believe they can challenge some grapes for quality) and their tart, fruity, tannic charms are a perfect foil for festive spices.
To accompany this delicious wine, Celtic Country Wines have raided the cellars of one of our favourite cheesemakers, Snowdonia Cheese Company. Their multi-award winning Extra Mature Cheddar, Black Bomber, is already a fixture on our festive cheese board (few Cheddars pack in so much cheesy flavour into such a creamy-textured cheese), and in this hamper it’s joined by their Ruby Mist Port & Brandy Cheddar, Red Devil Red Leicester with Chillis & Crushed Pepper and Green Thunder Garlic & Herbs Cheddar. If you’re a nibbler who can’t help returning to the fridge for small pieces of cheese, this latter one will have you in the act on a regular basis.
To complete the hamper you’ll also find two boxes of fancy crackers from Tregoes, and Celteg’s own Cheese Board Chutney and Boxing Day Chutney. If you’re looking for a hamper that contains booze, cheese and enough accompaniments to make a few festive suppers out of them then this box of Welsh delights is highly recommended and great value too.
Price £47.95. Available from www.celticwines.co.uk
Aber Falls Whisky Distillery Deluxe Hamper
Earlier this year, Aber Falls Whisky Distillery released its first single malt Welsh whisky and this deluxe hamper is like a festive celebration of the spirit in one large box. We were already fans of the distillery’s gin and the 700ml bottle of whisky makes for an extra special Christmas treat.
Besides the fruity, spicy whisky is an armful of other boozes, including seven miniatures of their other gins and liqueurs – of these a violet liqueur was a very nice surprise and will be smothering a bowl of ice cream very soon (and yes, it does taste like posh parma violets). They’ve also thrown in a couple of beers from their Welsh brewing chums Monty’s (see above) and Purple Moose. And besides booze there’s a choice selection of mixers from other Welsh suppliers, enabling you to conjure up a range of cocktails, and they’ve even added a whisky glass too.
And if the generous supply of drinks alone wasn’t enough, there’s also plenty to eat as well. Snacks (potato, beef and pig based), pickles, preserves, puddings, biscuits, chocolates, cakes and crackers all feature in abundance, with special nods of approval going to Popty Bakery’s Welsh Cakes and Black Mountain Runny Honey. The distillery has other hampers available on its website, but plump for this one and you won’t need to look elsewhere for festive food and drink treats.
Price £125. Available from Aber Falls Whisky Distillery
For the full range of Welsh Hampers visit https://hamper.wales/